2015 Best in Class: Best Boat Show Strategy

Pride Marine Group
Bracebridge, Ontario

Boat shows have played a major role in the success of Pride Marine Group as the company has grown to 11 locations.

The Canadian dealer generates 45 percent of its leads through shows and events, and the Toronto International Boat Show alone is responsible for almost 30 percent of the company’s sales.

With more than 38,000 square feet of booth space and 85 boats on display, Pride is a significant presence at the show.

The planning for the Toronto show starts months in advance, and Pride works to give show attendees a different experience than they have with other dealers.

“We have a Pride Marine Group booth with all of our boat brands on display rather than the traditional manufacturer booths,” said executive assistant Ellen Soper. “This allows us to keep almost all our brands in one central Pride location; otherwise our sales team would be scattered throughout the huge hall.”

Having the Pride team working together in the same space while showing all the brands the company carries, gives the dealer a huge advantage over the others at the show as it creates unity within the brands.

45% of Pride Marine Group’s leads are generated by shows and events.

45% of Pride Marine Group’s leads are generated by shows and events.

Pride also focuses on creating a relaxed feeling for the display, avoiding the high-pressure sales approach seen at many boat shows. Instead of meeting salespeople right away, anyone coming into the booth is welcomed by one of Pride’s greeters.

“Greeters are there to chat with customers about boating, where their cottage is, how they have enjoyed the show etc. and a salesperson is only introduced when the customer has questions about a boat or is looking for more information,” Soper said. “The greeters within the booth are knowledgeable about our business and assist boat show buyers to understand what boats might be best for them in an informal discussion. Once the bond is made, a salesperson is introduced into the mix.”

The practice has increased Pride’s sales totals, as it ensures sales personnel spend their time with serious buyers, as opposed to people simply checking out the show.

Once the customer jumps into the sales process, Pride uses a “Two-Touch System” to engage the buyer.

“Every customer is introduced to a member of the senior management team and/or a location manager near their boating area,” Soper said. “The manager assists through the closing process to remove hurdles and assist customers through the purchasing process.”

Recognizing that there is plenty of pricing confusion, especially among first-time buyers, Pride has introduced Pride Direct pricing on boats.

“We select boats that traditionally attract first time buyers at boat shows and price them very aggressively with a standard set of options,” Soper said. “The pricing is displayed boldly all over the boat as a fixed price offering to help customers see the transparency of our pricing structure. The value and structure of the pricing attracts many new boaters that we had not traditionally seen, and gives our customers confidence in our company as they know we are giving them a great deal.”

The Pride Passport Program, which is offered at shows and throughout the year, also helps eliminate some of the intimidation and uncertainty of owning a boat. The Pride Passport Program takes most of the costs of boating away from customers in their first year of ownership: storage, service, deliveries, safety gear and more are all included for the first 12 months. The passport also gives the customers additional discounts on products and services provided by Pride and its partners. This year, Pride stepped up this initiative and offered a Platinum Passport Program, good for three years.

“This made a huge splash at the show and is something that no other marina was able to offer, while assisting our sales team in selling more boats than we ever have before at the Toronto Boat Show,” Soper said.

Pride also tries to make it as easy as possible for its clients to get to the show, with VIP customer events and appointments. A dedicated Pride Will Call booth makes it quicker and simpler for Pride customers to get into the show, avoiding the long lines to enter.

“As soon as the customer left the Will Call booth the sales team member was notified that the customer had arrived,” Soper said. “This allowed the salesperson time to prepare and come to the main entrance and greet the customer.”

Existing customers are also contacted before the show with special offers if they buy ahead of time.

“This makes our existing customers feel special and part of the Pride family, while simultaneously freeing up salespeople’s time to focus attention on new customers at the show,” Soper said.



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